Mini Wooden Portable Compost Bin




Today we will make a portable compost bin, which can be placed anywhere in your yard. You can rotate this to different spot in your yard and produce healthy soil.

If you plan on planting a plant or a tree in certain spot, place this mini compost bin on that spot so it produces a healthy soil to start with. Then move to the next plot!

This bin is designed to help you think ahead about where you are going to plant, and what you are going to plant. You can make more than one of these bins and test out what compost is best for a plot, and what compost is not the best.

Step 1: What Is Compost?

Compost is one of the best mulches and soil amendments which can be used in place of the potentially harmful fertilizers you buy at the hardware store. So, whats the catch? There is no catch; compost is 100% free and helps to enrich the soil. Compost creates an extremely healthy environment for plants, and those that live around the plant.

About one third of the space in landfills is taken up with organic waste from our yards and kitchens, just the type of material that can be used in compost. ( Compost Guide )

Step 2: The Science Behind Composting

Before we start, we must understand what happens during composting.

Composting works very similar to a forest like ecosystem. The living cycle of green plants, fungi, bacteria, worms and other microscopic life steadily converts dead organic matter into nutrient-rich food. These organisms are called decomposers, which you may have learned in a science class. The result of this breaking down is a nutrient rich compost which is extremely healthy for your plant.

In my opinion, our main goal in composting is to replicate the actions that occur in an everyday ecosystem, except that we are speeding up the process and benefiting from it.

Step 3: Materials

What do we need to make our mini compost bin?

  • 4 pieces of wood that are 4.5 by 1' Thickness is not necessarily an issue, but if you were wondering, I had 3/4in thickness.
  • 8 Nails that are long enough to go through about 1.5 pieces of your wood. I used very thin ones, sorry I do not know their names, I found them in my workshop.
  • Hammer
  • Extra pieces of wood are optional if you want to build a cover.
  • Different types of waste products which I will talk about in the next step.

Step 4: What Can We Put in Our Bin?

What is acceptable compost? There are many waste products which are acceptable in your compost bin.

First off, we need an proper amount of Carbon and Nitrogen rich materials. Carbon rich materials, also called "browns" are your dried leaves, wood chips, papers, and anything somewhat brown. The Nitrogen rich materials are also called "greens." These are your grass clippings or kitchen scraps.

Too much greens can cause a smelly odor, and too many browns can slow down the decomposition process.

So, what is acceptable to put in your compost bin? I split these up between Carbon (browns) and Nitrogen (greens).

Carbon - Browns
  • Leaves, preferably chopped up to decrease the amount of space that they take up.
  • Small pieces of cardboard, and wet them a little bit before you put them in your pile.
  • Corn cobs work well in compost, but are better in small pieces.
  • Dryer lint is great because
  • Sawdust/shavings, but in small amounts. Too much can dry out the compost.
  • Pine needles and pine cones are great because they decompose slow, and add great nutrients.

Nitrogen - Greens
  • Grass clippings, but remember to mix them with a good amount of "browns" because they tend to smell. If you dry them out a little bit, then they will not smell as much.
  • Peels of fruits and vegetables, but I don't recommend using meat scraps or foods that are high in fats.
  • Egg shells, but try to crush them into smaller pieces before you put them in your bin.
  • Yard clippings, such as dead flowers, prickly bushes, sticks.
  • Coffee grounds are great for your bin and worms love them.
  • Pieces of newspaper, but in small amounts. Recycle it if you have too much.
  • Manure, from horses, cows, pigs, sheeps, goats, chickens, rabbits, BUT NOT FROM DOGS.
  • Weeds, you may want to dry them out before you place them in your bin

Step 5: Grab Your Wood

Take a Miter Saw or a saw of some sort, and cut your pieces of wood into 1 foot lengths.

A tip I used was using my first piece cut to measure the lengths of the rest. That way we keep the lengths constant throughout.

On your driveway or workbench, set up your wood in a box shape. This just gets you an idea of what it will look like. I made a few mistakes by not setting it up, and I don't want to pass it on to you.

I have a diagram below of how I set mine up.

Step 6: Time to Nail

I used two nails for each side, so for 4 sides, that is 8 nails. Yes! I can count!

The first two are tricky because you have nothing to really hold up the wood, so if you have a clamp, that will help you out.

Stick a nail in, and start hammering away. Make sure the nail goes into the second piece of wood, and get the head of the nail fully into the first piece of wood.

Continue all around, two nails on each side, and once you are done...well you are almost done!

Step 7: Finding a Strategic Spot for Your Bin

So, now it is time to think. Right now, think ahead about where you may be planting your summer plants, or a tree you have been wanting to place in your yard.

Find that spot and clear out a solid base for your bin. Place your bin down, and follow the next step.

This step is important, because it makes you envision the next plant that you wish to put there.

Once you are done with one plot, pick up this bin and move it to another! Then we can start the process all over again!

Step 8: Find Items to Put in Your Bin

Now it is time to find the items to put in your bin. Remember Step 4? Refer to that step for acceptable composting items, and have at it!

Look in your trash can for peels, your yard for clippings...anything that you know will decompose well, and put it in the bin.

Step 9: Worm Composting

Here is one choice you can make, and that is to use worms to make healthy soil.

The best choice for a worm is to use the red wiggler worm. You can buy them all of the internet, but my family likes to purchase our worms from this wholesale store.

You just have to place the worms in your compost bin, and they will have the time of their lives!

Discover Green Science Fair for a Better Planet

Fourth Prize in the
Discover Green Science Fair for a Better Planet



    • Jewelry Challenge

      Jewelry Challenge
    • Trash to Treasure

      Trash to Treasure
    • Tape Contest

      Tape Contest

    26 Discussions


    9 years ago on Step 4

    Nice instructable!

    Is there an ideal C/N ratio to feed the bin with? Or it´s something more empirical?


    9 years ago on Step 3

    Im curious, what type of wood did you use? I used pine in mine but then someone told me that the type of wood we use in the container will affect the acidity of the compost. Do you know something about that? Which wood would be better to use?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! A quibble: the smaller the box, the smaller the pieces of brown. Twigs will decompose, but it takes a while unless you clip them down to the size of your little finger.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I have heard that you should not use red wigglers in areas where they are not native, as they will push out, or take over they other native worms.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting. I just started a project where I plan on creating boxing exactly that that one to use for a mini tea garden on the back porch of my apartment.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Well, I am not much of a horticulturist, but I would think that you could use it with any plant. Do some research and check out your plants' pH, and then adjust and add other nutrients from there.


    10 years ago on Step 4

    Why not dog feces? My g/f's father uses dog waste on his garden and his tomato plants are twice the size mine are!(and mine aren't bad for this time of year..) I was just wondering if there was a reason for not adding dog waste, as we have two furry little deuce-machines at our house and we use their waste in our barrel composter all the time without issue. Seems ideal for dog owners.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 4

    Though there are definite reasons to avoid certain kinds, it is nevertheless possible for the waste of pretty much any animal to be used as fertilizer, including human, dog, elephant and tiger. But that does not mean it is always going to be beneficial, useful or safe for general use. Grazing animals - cows, elephants, sheep, camels, rabbits, horses - herbivores in other words, produce waste which is far more useful and safe for fertilizing as it is composed of almost nothing but organic plant matter. Tigers and dogs and humans, by contrast, have very high acid, high fat, low nutrient waste which, though may work on some plants, is generally not going to work well for most applications. Because of the typically high levels of meat we and they consume, it also has a much higher risk of carrying or attracting disease. Even pig manure is less than ideal as they frequently eat meats and processed food. The use of dog feces as manure may work on certain levels but personally I would steer far away from doing so - like humans, dogs are carriers for all sorts of nasty stuff. It's crap you really don't want in your garden. Ever see what happens to grass when a dog drops one in the yard? It kills the grass underneath. Ever see a cow patty lying in a field? It has grass and flowers growing out of it. That's my take anyway.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    There is always the concern on pathogens in the feces of any animal, but especially those eating meat and/or highly processed foods. Most dog food fits both of those descriptions.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Wonderful idea, but how would one keep raccoons out of this? My worm compost bin had to be reinforced akin to Fort Knox, with lots of bricks on top. (Yes, lots of air holes). Any ideas on how to ground compost with these nosy bandits around? (Raccoons LOVE worms, and any dirt that smells like food for that matter). Also any ideas on how to separate worms from the wonderful soil they make would be most appreciative. Thanks in advance


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I'm wondering this too... I really like this instructable. I've been wanting to do some kind of composting, but all the stuff you buy seems too big/difficult/cumbersome for what we'd realistically be able to do at this point. This one is small & seems easy to deal with. Voting & intend to try it!! :)